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Georgette had a bad morning. Here it was Friday, March 12th, and shed wasted all her time since Valentines Day on Nat Pemrod. She was sure that he had fallen for her. That he was just about to give her presents and money. When shed gotten him tipsy the other night, hed spilled the beans about the diamonds. Hed even told her he liked to have fun with them. Whatever that meant. But before she had a chance to go out and buy cubic zirconiums to substitute for them, someone else had already moved in for the kill.

Who was it? Somebody else had to have taken the diamonds, and Georgette was bound and determined to find out who it was. She hadnt been a con artist for ten years for nothing. She and Blaise were usually so good at this game. They just seemed to be down on their luck lately.

Or there was always the chance that Nat had hidden the diamonds somewhere in the apartment. Is that what he meant by playing games? God knows shed listened to all his stories about the practical jokes hed played over the years.

She went into a fast-food restaurant on Broadway, purchased a cup of coffee, and looked around. An old man was hunched over a newspaper in a corner booth. Georgette sashayed over and cleared her throat.

Excuse me, is this seat taken? she asked, pointing to the orange plastic bench that was nailed to the floor.

He looked up at her, smiled slightly, and motioned for her to sit down. He was bald, with a large round face, smooth clear skin, and watery blue eyes. His clothes looked like they had seen better days, but he was wearing a shirt and tie. From the corner of her eye, Georgette could see that he was sporting a pair of thick-soled white sneakers.

A perfect target, she thought. Surely he has a few shekels that he can do without.

Sit down, my beauty, he insisted.

This is better than I thought, Georgette mused. Thank you, sir, she said.

Whats a lovely girl like you doing all alone?

Georgette batted her eyes as she sat on the impossibly uncomfortable bench. I just moved into town, and I dont know many people yet. She leaned in so he could smell her perfume.

He sneezed, waved his hands, and pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket. Sit back, my beauty. Sit back. Your perfume isnt good for my throat.

Your throat?

I was a singer in my day. Performed everywhere. Now I was thinking, if you give me a few hundred bucks a week, Ill teach you to sing and have you on Broadway in five years. I can still hit middle C, you know. He opened his mouth and belted out several notes as Georgette jumped up and ran out of the restaurant. On her way, she heard one of the busboys yell, Cool it, Mr. C. We told you no singing in here.

Out on the street, Georgette struggled to regain her composure. My planets must not be in alignment, she thought. Just then her cell phone rang. Let it be Blaise, she thought.

Hello oh Lydia, what a surprise Another party tonight? Georgettes pulse quickened. How nice of you Is there anything I can do to help? Im actually off today No? Well, maybe Ill get there early Id love to talk to Maldwin about signing up for his next butler class Yes, really Okay, see you later.

Georgette put the phone back in her purse and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I can get back in Nats apartment tonight, she thought. As she hurried down the block, she passed a coffee shop. Stopping in her tracks, she turned around and went back. You never know, she thought, as she opened the door and made a beeline for the seat next to an old man at the counter. My work is never done.

| Fleeced | c